Halfway to Something

Beware: Existential ponderings ahead. Also: Cows will eat your car.

It would be easy to write about how amazing this whole experience has been (and continues to be), and I plan to (though I caution that any plans of mine tend to be delicate, mercurial things). But to focus only on the beauty of this land and the positive highlights of farm life would be dishonest, in the sense that it would not be telling a complete story. And I attempt to write honestly.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said ‘A man is what he thinks about all day long’, and I believe that. It may be our actions that create an image of us in other people’s minds, but it is our intentions, our thoughts, that color our own days; not what we do, but how we feel about it that shapes our perception of our own, current existence.

So what have I been thinking about during all this? Shit, a lot of things. These last two and half months have gone by in an insane blur and I haven’t had as much time (though who ever does?) as I’d like to process it all.

I’ve been thinking about the isolation of farm life and how difficult it has to be to try to understand the mind of someone else when their perspective is so far removed from the only small corner of the world you’ve ever known. About the casually racist comments so common in Queensland. What it is about the color of the sky up here that makes it so beautiful to the eye and why that flock of birds taking flight from the dust below to dart and twist through the air like a glittering school of fish makes my heart sing so very loudly.

Mind you, I’ve also been thinking about quantum mechanics, kittens, the Iraqi invasion (I was watching the HBO miniseries ‘Generation Kill.’ SO GOOD), the value of friendship and speculative fiction.

. . .my mind doesn’t experience much quiet time.

Right, I’m sorted. So what are YOU drinking, then?

I’ve also been thinking about drinking a scotch, or two, or three, at the end of every single day, and how strongly I’m beginning to anticipate and look forward to that, and how much that unnerves me. And I’ve been reaching back in time, and struggling to place when a dependance on alcohol might have actually started, and find myself thinking of moments in Melbourne, in Nova Scotia, in Germany. . .

I’ve been thinking about how much healthier I’d been feeling that last month in Melbourne, since I cut grains and dairy from my diet and begun making the time to stretch, and to breathe. And I’ve been thinking about that brownie I had earlier today, and about how it’s been 3 days since my last yoga session. I’ve been thinking about how long I spent on the toilet the other day, and that familiar pain in my lower back that always creeps back when I’m neglecting my morning yoga sessions.

I’ve been thinking about that pack of cigarettes I picked up in Cloncurry and how I’ve been managing to convince myself, for two and a half months, that ‘Next pack. The next pack will be the last. Definitely.’.

So while I have been giving thought, at length, to the color of the sky and the feel of cantering on horseback, it has not typically been what’s been forefront in my mind when I lay down at night. What has been, particularly of late, is my relationship with addiction.

Okay, the color of the sky IS occasionally forefront in my mind.

I do poorly with addiction. I’ve said, many (many many) times that it is only by the grace of some unseen deity that I never tried hard drugs. Because, if I had, I would be addicted to hard drugs. And that would have been a damn fast spiral downwards for me. If I wasn’t dead by now, I’d be close to it, or maybe just wishing for it. One way or another, it’d have been a bad scene.

Addiction doesn’t stop at substances. In my mind, addiction and obsession go hand in hand to the point of being synonymous – you do something, and it feels good, so you want more of it. Or you do something, and it feels bad, so you avoid it. Or you do something, over and over, for some reason perhaps unclear to you – maybe just because you’ve always done it – and you just get used to doing it until you convince yourself you need to. One way or the other, you form habits. And a habit doesn’t need to involve substances to be damaging to you, or to those around you.

You can make a habit of procrastination, of avoidance. You can make a habit of convincing yourself you’re too tired at the end of the day to stretch for even 5 minutes before bed until that fatigue becomes real. Can make a habit of setting unrealistic expectations for yourself, routinely setting yourself up for failure, then getting frustrated with yourself when you do fail each time until you create a mental paralysis that prevents you from ever attempting anything. You can make a habit of constantly ranting to yourself internally about existentialism until you live only in your head, cut off from the ability to appreciate the awesomeness of what’s surrounding you in the actual, concrete world.

Winning at health. And also BJJ. Photo courtesy of Sweep Mount Submit photography.

My last month in Melbourne I began, after too many years, to finally learn how to physically take care of myself. I began changing habits, though I was hardly flawless in implementation. And I began to feel better, emotionally, physically, and mentally.

I know what I need to do to feel as good as I can. I need to quit smoking, finally. I need to give up caffeine as well. I need to take a break from alcohol until I’ve confirmed to myself that I have not formed a dependance upon it, if not give it up all together.
I need to stop consuming grains, dairy and sugar, though this is tricky, here, where many of my meals are prepared by someone else, for the entirety of the family. There’s only so inconvenient I’m willing to be to the people around me, and it doesn’t involve requesting specialty meals for myself when the evening course has some amount of flour in its recipe.
I need to read a couple texts, and learn more about stress, and adrenal fatigue. I need to make breathing, stretching and meditation a priority and a daily habit.

It never ceases to amaze me that my body finds this more restorative than sleeping in.

But.

I also need to learn how to be kind with myself, and appreciate that I’m human, and will falter. I need to learn that faltering once or twice does not somehow negate all of the wins that have preceded it.

The logical part of my brainmeats doesn’t understand why I don’t do these things. Not doing something (i.e. eat chocolate, smoke a cigarette, down a scotch) should technically be easier than doing something. It takes less time, effort and money to avoid something than it does to indulge in it. Alright, some crocodile part of my brain is going ‘nom chocolate WANT sugar good’. But another, wiser, part of my brain is going ‘Sugar is addictive. So each time you eat it, you will want more, which means it will make you sad whenever you’re not having it. It is easier to just not eat it to begin with, until you don’t crave it anymore. Also, that sugar will increase your weight, which will make you pudgy, which will also make you sad, since you are attempting to drop weight. If you neglect in eating it, you will drop weight and, if you are being awesome in other areas like fitness, you will gain muscle mass and look and feel awesome which will increase your confidence and make you feel even more awesome and create a happy upward spiral. Yay, right? So do that instead.”

But I don’t, and it confuses me that I don’t, even while possessing some understanding of the nature of addiction.

So. This is where I find myself: I know what I need to do to be as healthy and happy as I am physically able to be. I know I have not done it. So I have gotten angry at myself and mentally scolded myself for not being perfect and awesome. I have eventually reached an odd point of zen where I have simultaneously accepted that I do need to do these things, but also that I will not be flawless in their implementation, because I am, regrettably, human (lame). I have reached an accord with myself – as long as I am improving, each day, each week. . .that’s cool. I will be kind with myself as I steadily improve, and foster that happy upward momentum. And I’ve seen that bargain working thus far – I see, and feel, the steady improvement. I’m excited for where this is going to get me. I’m still nervous of sliding backwards. I’m hoping I don’t.

Some shit is slightly more visual than other shit. For example, this shit is the exact size of a full grown cow’s hoof. Just in case you were wondering.

I have no epiphany to share with you at this point in time, no wisdom to impart from this work still in progress. I just wanted to mention these things I think about, this default place my head falls back to, these things that color my days in the gaps between events. I wanted to mention it before I go posting photos of glorious sunsets and writing about how a childhood dream got fulfilled the day I learned to ride a gelding named Banch. Because it doesn’t seem honest to share half a story. At the same time that I get to do some pretty fucking awesome things, I also have shit I have to deal with. We all have shit, however well or poorly we hide it.

I hope this doesn’t come off as some confession that I am secretly miserable all the time. I do have many moments that truly take my breath away, that leave me in awe of the wonder of nature, that leave me feeling so blessed to be here, that knock all existential ponderings of ‘but really, what is the point of it all?’ so far out to left field that Barry Bonds can’t hit there.

. . .wait, what was I dwelling on again?

And in the moments between, when I fall back into bad patterns of thought or back into bad habits, I still take comfort in how far I’ve come from the sadsack I used to be all those years back. There’s a lot I take comfort in, a lot of good in my life; among the good is the realization that I’ve hit a point in my life where I am able to appreciate that.

I am getting there, slowly moving towards that person I always wanted to be, towards the sort of life I always wanted for myself. That ironically seems to involve accepting I will likely never actually be that person. Something will always be lacking, broken, imperfect.

But I am halfway there. Or halfway to something. I am excited about that.

I’m also excited about this visceral, gut feeling I have that perhaps more so than ever before in my life, I am exactly where I need to be.

*

*The first of the aforementioned picture shows can be located on the Flickrs here, or on the Facebooks here. Photos are from March, 2013, and were shot on Mellish Park Cattle Station, North Queensland, Australia (and surrounding area, including Mount Isa).
*For more BJJ photos from Sweep Mount Submit, check out their Facebook page here.

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